By Hasan Afif El-Hasan, PhD
Special to PalestineChronicle.com
US news media including its major newspapers have for a long time misrepresented the nature of the state of Israel and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in their news coverage and editorials. While failing to hold Israel and the US accountable under the international laws and while they vilify Muslim fundamentalism, the US media avoids any reference to Jewish fundamentalism. The influence of rabbinical scholars on the treatment of the Jews to non-Jews in Israel has never been touched by the US media. Those who criticize Israel for its policies have been accused of the ritual epithet anti-Semite or self-hating Jews. Ironically, only in Israel itself, there have been few voices of reason, although not enough, including human rights organizations that dare to examine the Israeli policies and even the Talmud and the rabbinical traditions that have turned Israel into a theocracy for Jews only.
The late human rights activist, Professor Israel Shahak, an Israeli Jew and a resident of Israel for forty years who spent his childhood in the concentration camp in Belsen suggested that despite the claim that Israel is a secular state, it has been “shaped by religious orthodoxies of an invidious and potentially nature”. He stated that despite the claim that Israel is a secular state “Judaism has been used to justify its policies that are as racist, as totalitarian and as xenophobic, as the worst excesses of anti-Semitism”. Shahak argued that the obvious Israeli chauvism is rooted in the Talmud and rabbinical laws fanaticism. This has been demonstrated every day by actions of the Israeli establishment and settlers against the Palestinians in Israel proper and in the apartheid system that it created in the West Bank and Gaza.
Israel Shahak turned human rights activist when he witnessed an event where a religious Jew did not allow his phone to be used on the Sabbath to call an ambulance for an Arab who suffered a heart attack in his Jerusalem neighborhood. Feeling offended as a Jew and a citizen of Israel and a human being, Shahak asked members of the Rabbinical Court of Jerusalem, whose members are nominated by the State of Israel, about whether the behavior of the religious Jew was legitimate according to the Jewish religion laws. He was troubled by the Court’s answer especially because it was backed by a passage from the Talmudic laws.
The Court ruled that “the Jew in question had behaved correctly, indeed piously” when he did not try to save the life of a gentile. Shahak concluded that Israel as a Jewish state constitutes a danger to all Jews everywhere and to all other peoples in the Middle East, especially since the power of its Jewish character is on the rise and the fact that it is a nuclear state. A constitutional law was passed in 1985 by large majority of the Knesset that no party which opposes the principle of a Jewish state or proposes to change it by democratic means, is allowed to participate in Knesset elections. The “Jewish state” means Israel belongs only to people considered by the Israeli establishments as “Jewish” regardless of where they live, and the status of its non-Jews citizens must be inferior. Israeli policies toward the Palestinians and the Arab neighbors have been guided by Jewish ideological considerations. According to Shahak, Ariel Sharon proposed in the Likud 1993 Convention that “Israel should adopt the Biblical borders concept as its official policy”.
The Israeli government learning institutions have propagated the Orthodox religious exclusive ideology of the “Redemption of Land” among school children and the Jewish public. “Redeemed land” is referred to as the land that none of it is owned or worked by non-Jews [Arabs]. Redemption demands that all the land of Palestine will in time be redeemed. The precepts of religion do not govern the details of the social and private lives of the secular Israeli Jews, but it certainly governs their attitude and behavior toward non-Jews, the Arabs. If the Palestinians do not already know, the current negotiations with them are influenced by the Jewish religious ideological considerations.
A public opinion poll conducted by the “Israel Democracy Institute” in April 2003 and published by Ha-Aretz newspaper on May 16, 2003, found fifty-three percent of the Jewish population opposed equal rights for Arab citizens. The state of Israel officially discriminates against its non-Jewish citizens, the Arabs, by denying them the right to reside or to have business in 92 percent of Israel’s land that had been mostly confiscated from the indigent Arab population. And the state prohibits the Arab citizens from working in many fields. Even the kibbutz that is populated mostly by atheists, have been following the Orthodox religious ideology of Redemption. They never accepted Arab members, and the kibbutz boys have been considered as the most Jewish militaristic segment of Israel. The US press, including the most liberal, wrote extensively about the kibbutz Utopia since the establishment of Israel, and as usual, there was no reference to it as a racist institution.
The superior rabbinical scholars who interpret the legal system of Judaism as stated in the Talmud are trusted to lead their fellow Jews in every aspect of their lives. According to the Jewish religion, the murder of a Jew is a capital offence and one of the most heinous sins punishable by religious and secular authorities to the maximum. But if a Jew murders a Gentile, he would be guilty only of a sin against the laws of heaven, not punishable by court. And it is not even a sin if the Jew causes indirectly the death of a gentile.
The rabbis of the Habbad Orthodox religious movement, an important branch of Hassidism, state in their Hatanya fundamental book that “there is absolutely nothing good about non-Jews”, and that all “creatures were created primarily for the sake of the Jews”. Former Israeli President Shazar was a follower of Habbad and many prominent Israelis including Prime Minister Begin courted them. Shulamit Aloni, a member of the Knesset, said in a testimony that Habbad stepped up its preaching among the military medical staff to withhold medical help to the wounded Gentiles [read Arabs] during the 1978 invasion of Lebanon.
The Israeli state criminal law makes no distinction between a Jew and a gentile, but the distinction is made by the Orthodox Rabbis officers who follow the Halakhah teaching and give religious advice to the soldiers before, during and after military operations. The extremely light sentences received by the military members who committed the mass murder of Israeli Arabs [gentile] in the infamous 1956 Kafr Qasim massacre suggest that the Halakhah doctrine had big influence on the administration of justice. Shmu’el Lahis, the officer responsible for the massacre of more than 70 Arab farmers, returning from their nearby fields to their families, in cold blood was granted complete amnesty by Prime Minister Ben-Gurion, and few years later he was appointed Director General of the Jewish Agency, one of the highest official positions in Israel.
Hundreds of massacres have been committed against the Palestinians, the Lebanese and the Egyptians since the creation of Israel and the perpetrators never been punished, and some were even rewarded. After Shamir and Sharon committed the most heinous crimes against the Palestinians in Deir Yassin village and Sabra, Shatila, Tel al-Za’atar and Dbayyeh refugee camps massacres, they became Prime Ministers of Israel. Under Sharon premiership, number of Palestinians killed by Israel in the West Bank and Gaza was 3,982 including 708 children (below 18 years) and the number of injured was more than 41,000 including 2500 Permanent Disabilities, according to the “Palestine Monitor”. Shemon Peres was a Prime Minister when he personally approved shelling the Fijian UNIFIL compound in Qana, a Lebanese village, where hundreds of Lebanese civilians had taken refuge. A total of 106 women and children were killed and 116 wounded. Shemon Peres is currently the President of Israel. The Israeli military executed in cold blood thousands of Egyptian POW’s in the 1967 war.
Shahak wrote that Orthodox Jewish doctrine for dealing with gentiles of hostile population was propagated as guidance to the Israeli soldiers. The Chaplain of the Israeli Army Central Region Command which includes the West Bank wrote in a published booklet: “When our forces come across civilians during a war or in hot pursuit or in a raid, so long as there is no certainty that those civilians are incapable of harming our forces, then according to the Halakhah they may and even should be killed…In war, when our forces storm the enemy, they are allowed and even enjoined by the Halakhah to kill even good civilians, that is civilians who are ostensibly good”.
Israel’s Jewish Fundamentalism ideology that preaches the “Redemption of the Land of Israel” and the disregard to the human rights and even the lives of the non-Jews is behind the pursuit of territorial expansion, the settlements activities, the so many laws and regulations that discriminate against the Israeli Arabs, the massacres of Arab civilians and POW’s and the inhumane treatment of the helpless Palestinians in the occupied land.
-Born in Nablus, Palestine, Hasan Afif El-Hasan,Ph.D, is a political analyst.